Tag Archives: fake linguistics

Another Sock Puppet

As I have already mentioned in several posts (Another Cassidy Sock Puppet; Mr and Mrs Sock Puppet), in the period around November 2007 to January 2008, a number of fake reviews of Cassidy’s book appeared in various places on the internet. This is another example from 28 November 2007, which can be found on the Thomas Pynchon Wiki.

How can I be so sure that this is Cassidy? Well, there is the obsession with the Irish origin of jazz. The typical dig at the OED. The usual line about the Gorta Mor (recte Gorta Mór or Drochshaol to real Irish speakers). The ludicrous claims that bunkum and hoodoo and spiel and baloney come from Irish. Nobody apart from Cassidy ever claimed that and all of these claims are nonsense.

And then there’s the casual comment at the end, which is saying that the author isn’t Cassidy but there is a book I’ve just found out about which is bound to discuss these terms and many others! It is important that people realise that Cassidy wasn’t just wrong. He was also a humungous liar who lied continually and without the least guilt or embarrassment.

 

Jazz / Jass

The OED lists the earliest print usage of “Jazz,” originally a dance and not, as in current use, the musical form, as 1909. The exact dating of this episode is unclear, though it seems likely to have occurred earlier. The usage is not anachronistic though its precise usage(as a musical form rather than a dance)may be unknown. As for the unusual spelling, the OED lists “Jass” as a variant, though with no information as to where or when it was prevalent. see OED article above.

In my music student days, I was told Jazz was a Creole word. It’s no secret that the Empire builders made sure to extirpate or pervert language and culture from countries under their protection. (See discussion of Tartan on pg. 220) Not that one shouldn’t trust the OED, but it is an ENGLISH DICTIONARY. New Orleans was the third largest disembarkation port for poor Irish fleeing An Gorta Mor (or ‘Famine’ as some would have it) They came as ballast on returning trans-Atlantic cotton ships. They liked N.O. because it was a Catholic city and the City Fathers liked them because they worked for next to nothing on projects like the New Basin Canal and were also content to work and live with the Black population. Quite a few slang words came into American English from the original Irish (galore, baloney (as in foolish talk, not meat), bunkum, hoodoo, spiel, and those gangster words for face and mouth: pus and gob!) There is an Irish language word spelled teas in Irish letters and pronounced tjazs in our letters. It suggests excitement or passion and could be connected to the blend of dance that led from Irish step to American tap.

I learned today of a book, How the Irish Invented Slang:The Secret Language of the Crossroads by Professor Dan Cassidy [1] which I’m sure has these and more.

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Ditch

This is one of the silliest claims in a very silly book. I mean, how stupid would you need to be to believe that the word ditch (as in ‘she ditched him’) comes from the supposed Irish phrase de áit? The phrase de áit isn’t in use in Irish and never has been.

The two words exist independently, of course. De means from or ‘off of’, ‘from the surface of’ (bhain siad an pictiúr den bhalla – they took the picture off of the wall), while áit means place. And occasionally they occur together in phrases like an phrochlais sin de áit (that dump of a place) or taobh amuigh de áit (outside of a place) but in the standard language, this would usually become d’áit and it isn’t anything to do with displacing or dislodging or dumping in these cases. If you want to say that someone displaced something or put it out of its place you would use as áit, not de áit: cuireadh na brící as áit nuair a thit an scafall orthu (the bricks were dislodged when the scaffolding fell on them). So, de áit is pretty much impossible as the origin of ditch.

The English ditch, on the other hand, is a very likely source. A ditch, meaning a kind of trench at the side of the road (or sometimes the bank beside the trench in Ireland), comes from the Old English word dic. And in the old days, when you had some rubbish you dumped it in the ditch, or ditched it. In time, this became a general term for discarding or dumping.

This isn’t rocket science. I do have academic degrees but you don’t need a degree (or even the high-school certificate that Cassidy had instead of a degree) to work out that Cassidy’s claim is nonsense. All you need is reasonable literacy skills, access to the internet and an open and sensible mind. Which is why I find it really strange that so many people are prepared to support a book that contains so many transparent stupidities like this.

Seo ceann de na rudaí is bómánta dá maíonn Cassidy sa leabhar amaideach seo. Bheadh ort bheith millteanach ramhar sa réasún lena chreidiúint gur ón fhrása ‘Gaeilge’ de áit a thagann an focal Béarla ditch (mar shampla, sa fhrása ‘she ditched him’.  Níl na focail de áit le fáil sa Ghaeilge agus ní raibh riamh.

Tá an dá fhocal ann leo féin, ar ndóigh. Ciallaíonn de ó ó dhromchla ruda  (bhain siad an pictiúr den bhalla), agus is ionann áit agus ionad. Agus bíonn an dá fhocal ag teacht le chéile corruair i bhfrásaí mar an phrochlais sin de áit nó  taobh amuigh de áit ach sa Chaighdeán, dhéanfaí d’áit de sin, agus ní bhaineann sé le rudaí a dhíláithriú sna cásanna seo.  Bhainfeá úsáid as as áit, ní de áit le sin a rá – cuireadh na brící as áit nuair a thit an scafall orthu, mar shampla. Mar sin de, níl seans dá laghad go bhfuil de áit ceart mar bhunús an Bhéarla ditch.

Ar an láimh eile, tá an focal Béarla ditch thar a bheith fóirsteanach agus thar a bheith soiléir mar mhíniú. Tagann an focal ditch, a chiallaíonn ‘díog’, ón fhocal Sean-Bhéarla dic. Agus sna seanlaethanta, nuair a bhí bruscar agat, dhéantaí é a dhumpáil sa díog, nó é a ‘ditcheáil’. Leis na blianta, fuair an focal ditching an chiall chéanna le dumping.

Ní rud deacair casta é seo. Tá céimeanna ollscoile agam ach níl céim de dhíth ar dhuine (ná fiú an teastas ardscoile a bhí ag Cassidy in áit céimeanna) lena oibriú amach gur raiméis é an méid a dúirt Cassidy faoin fhocal seo. Níl de dhíth ar dhuine ach scileanna réasúnta litearthachta, teacht ar an Idirlíon agus intinn oscailte chiallmhar. Sin an fáth a gcuireann sé a oiread sin iontais orm go bhfuil a oiread sin daoine sásta tacú le leabhar a bhfuil a oiread sin bómántachtaí follasacha ar nós an chinn seo ann.

 

 

 

 

 

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig

 

St Patrick’s Day is here again, so it seems like a good opportunity once again to attack Cassidy’s rubbish book of fake Irish, to encourage people to learn a little of the real thing, and to say a couple of words about the philosophy of language learning.

At this time of year, many people in the Irish diaspora take an interest in their culture and history. Because of the irresponsible behaviour of a number of prominent members of the Irish-American establishment like Peter Quinn, Joe Lee, Michael Patrick MacDonald, Tom Deignan, the organisers of the San Francisco Irish-American Crossroads Festival and countless others, who recommended and continue to recommend this nonsense to gullible people, this book is still being sold. This is a disgrace. Cassidy’s ‘research’ is a cruel and disgusting hoax and IMHO no decent person would support it. However, thanks in part to this blog, people are now much more aware of how dishonest and foolish this book is, so the newspaper articles about Cassidy’s linguistic ‘revelations’ which used to appear at this time of year have been considerably fewer over the last couple of years. The only major organ (yes, I’m aware of the innuendo) of the diaspora which still supports this raiméis is the egregious IrishCentral. They continue to republish a semi-literate ‘review’ of Cassidy’s book by some 9/11 Truther called Brendan Patrick Keane.

Anyway, it seems appropriate to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with some handy (and GENUINE) phrases in our beautiful Ulster dialect of the Irish language.

 

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig duit!

Ban-akh-tee na fayla pahrig ditch!

Blessings of St Patrick’s day to you!

 

Go raibh míle maith agat.

Go roh meela moy oggut!

A thousand thanks!

 

Tá sé iontach deas inniu.

Tah shay intah jass inyoo.

It’s very nice today.

 

Sláinte mhór agus saol fada agat!

Slahn-chya wore ogus seel fadda oggut!

Good health and long life to you!

 

If you want some more information on these things, there are hundreds of resources on line. Focloir.ie is particularly good and has audio files for common words. Just don’t trust anything you read on IrishCentral, in any language, and don’t use Cassidy’s book as a source for learning Irish!

As for the philosophy of language learning, here’s a few points for people thinking of learning Irish:

DO

  • learn a little every day – start NOW!
  • label things you use every day – fridge, cooker, car, door
  • write common words or phrases on cards and carry them round with you
  • learn a few proverbs or songs by heart
  • use apps and words of the day and the Kindle and other new technology
  • get output by TG4 and Raidió na Gaeltachta and listen to the language as much as possible (without bothering about understanding it) just to get used to the sounds and intonation

DON’T

  • go to a class once a week and forget about it the rest of the time
  • try to learn everything at once and get disheartened when you can’t
  • use Google Translate to translate INTO Irish (it’s useful to get an idea of what a text means in a language you don’t speak well or at all but, for example, if you put I cycled a lot into Google Translate, you get Rothar mé go leor, which is garbage!)
  • make up sentences which are too complicated for you – stick to the structures you know to be correct. Walk, then run! There’s no point in practising elaborate structures which are wrong. Stick to simple sentences which are right! 
  • Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!!

Booze

I have noticed that many of the early posts on this blog get relatively little traffic, so I have decided to start republishing some of them.

This is a typically ridiculous Cassidy claim. Scholars have quite rightly identified that this word is Germanic in origin and is linked to the Dutch word busen, which meant to drink to excess. Booze is a long-established word in English, both as a verb and as a noun. For example, searching on the Michigan Middle English Dictionary website, I found this, from around 1325: Hail, ȝe holi monkes..Late and raþe ifillid of ale and wine! Depe cun ȝe bouse. (Hail, you holy monks. Late and early filled with ale and wine! Deep can you booze.)

Cassidy disagrees. On the basis of his vast knowledge of the Irish language (!) he believes that this word derives from an Irish word beathuis. Now, you will search in vain for this word in the dictionary. Beathuis is not a real word. Even if it were real, it wouldn’t sound much like booze. It would be pronounced as bahish.

Where did Cassidy get this word? Well, there is a word beathuisce (life-water) in the dictionaries. It is a variant of the vastly more common uisce beatha (water of life) which is the origin of English whisk(e)y. This variant seems to be found mostly in songs and poems and is probably used in these contexts for reasons of metre, because it has 3 syllables rather than 4. It is pronounced bahishka. So what about the inconvenient –ka at the end? After all, nobody talks about boozeka in English! According to Cassidy, beathuisce was shortened to beathuis. He gives no evidence of this or reason for it, and it seems about as likely as someone in English contracting the word water to wart.

So, to recap, there is a perfectly good derivation from Dutch which fits the facts, sounds right and has the right meaning, and was established in English by the early 14th century. And there is a completely improbable candidate which doesn’t sound like booze and which was made up by Cassidy by mutilating a rare variant word beathuisce, the ‘word’ beathuis.

Which is correct? I’ll leave you to make up your own mind on that one!

 

A Christmas Warning

When I last looked at Amazon, Daniel Cassidy’s absurd book How The Irish Invented Slang was unavailable, though you can still buy a second-hand copy for a couple of dollars. If there were any justice, this trashy, awful book would never have been published in the first place. However, it’s Christmas, the world is full of suckers, so we can expect a few copies to be sold as naïve people look around for a present for their relatives and take this nasty piece of fakery as a genuine contribution to our knowledge about the Irish past.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again – if you give this book as a present, you are giving out a clear message about yourself. At least some of the recipients will find this blog or other negative reviews of this book. If they have any sense at all, they will realise that you are an idiot. A crank. A flat-earther. A flake. A total amadán, just like its author.

So, this Christmas, if you can’t think of anything to give people, don’t give this rubbish. Give a global gift from Trócaire or Oxfam or whatever the equivalent is where you live, or make a contribution to a charity on their behalf and put the receipt in a card. Give hope and help to people who need it, and say something positive about yourself.

Don’t give the gift of ignorance this Christmas.

Brag

I have noticed that many of the early posts on this blog get relatively little traffic, so I have decided to start republishing some of them.

According to the fake etymologist Daniel Cassidy, the terms ‘brag’ and ‘braggart’ in English derive from the Irish words bréag and bréagóir.

So, is there any truth to this claim? Well, the word bréag does exist in Irish and the word bréagóir is given as a variant (by Dinneen) of the more common expression bréagadóir. O Dónaill’s dictionary doesn’t even mention bréagóir as an alternative version. The problem is that while both of these expressions, bréag and bréagadóir/bréagóir, are somewhere in the ballpark, they are out with the hot-dog sellers rather than in the diamond. Bréag means ‘a lie’. It doesn’t mean the same thing as bragging or boasting. There are a number of expressions for bragging: ag déanamh mórtais, ag braigeáil (a loan word from English brag!), maíomh a dhéanamh as rud, ag déanamh a mhór díot féin and half a dozen others.

And, as it happens, brag is well attested in English as far back as the 14th century, which means that it didn’t come from bréag and has nothing to do with Irish slang in America. For example, the Michigan Middle English Dictionary has this, written around 1400 in the poem Piers Plowman:

He bosteth and braggeth with many bolde othes. (He boasts and brags with many bold oaths.)

And finally, let’s all have a good laugh at Cassidy’s expense. Bréag is pronounced brayg, to rhyme with Haigue or Craig. Broadly speaking, there are two ways of doing the phonetics in books like this. You can either learn the International Phonetic Alphabet and use it as the basis for your description, which looks a bit off-putting to anyone without linguistic training, or you can produce an ad hoc system of your own based on English, as I did with brayg above.

This is the IPA version: bʲɾʲeːɡ. At least, I think this is right. I’m no expert!

Cassidy wrote b’ríǒg as his version of the phonetics of the word bréag. Nobody trying to work out the pronunciation of bréag would have a chance of pronouncing it properly from this. While it looks as technical and scientific as the IPA, it is complete nonsense. Pure codology. God alone knows what Cassidy thought he was doing when he produced this silly little piece of pseudo-phonetics but it just goes to show what a complete charlatan, doofus and moron he was!

These words, of course, are all Irish: síorliodán meaning ‘an eternal rigmarole’, dubhfhios meaning ‘black knowledge’ or figuratively, ignorance, and mór-rón, a big fat stupid seal. (Of course, in reality, none of these is derived from Irish, but it just shows how easy it is to produce crap like this using Cassidy’s fake ‘methodology!’)

Sneeze

I have noticed that many of the early posts on this blog get relatively little traffic, so I have decided to start republishing some of them.

 

Here’s another example of my issues with Cassidy’s theories. According to Cassidy, the English word sneeze derives from Irish:

Sní as (pron. snee’as, flowing, dripping, leaking, coursing out of) is not to be sneezed at. It is the Irish origin of the English sneeze.

There are several points to be noted here. First of all, the phrase sní as doesn’t exist in Irish as a way of referring to sneezing. Nor could it exist, as far as I can see. The word sní refers to slow movement of liquids, such as a running, a dripping or a flowing, or to the slow movement of snails or slugs. Here is the entry from Mícheál Ó Siochfhradha’s Irish-English, English-Irish Dictionary published in 1973 by the Talbot Press in Dublin:

Sní, f. flowing slowly (as water); crawling (as snail)

As sneezing is one of the fastest and most dynamic actions the human body is capable of, it hardly seems likely that sní would be used to describe it! It would be far more likely to be used (if at all) as a way of describing a nose running because of a cold.

Then again, there is an Irish word for sneeze. It’s in all the dictionaries. Sraoth is the word. So if you want to say “I sneezed”, you would say lig me sraoth. If you want to say ‘I was sneezing’, you say bhí mé ag sraothartach (or in my Ulster dialect, bhí mé ag srofartaigh).

And last but by no means least, we have to look at borrowings between languages. Generally speaking, languages borrow words that they don’t have a word for themselves. Thus banshee, or kosher, or imam have been borrowed into English because English doesn’t have words for those concepts. But people have always sneezed, so why wouldn’t English have had a word for sneezing before the Irish gave them an expression?

Of course, the English did have an expression for sneezing. It’s the word sneezing. English is a Germanic language, which is why Irish fear is ‘man’ in English and ‘Mann’ in German, or Irish lámh is ‘hand’ in English and ‘Hand’ in German, because the core vocabulary of the Germanic languages is related. If we look at words for sneeze in the Germanic languages, sneeze is ‘niesen’ (pronounced ‘neezen’) in German and ‘niezen’ (neesa) in Dutch. Apparently all of these words originally had an f in front of them which in English was somehow replaced with an s, probably on the analogy of words like sniff, snort, snivel. As it happens, the version with f- is not found in any Old English text but this doesn’t mean it never existed.

By the time of Chaucer, the word already existed in English as snesen. The words sneeze, niesen and niezen are obviously the same word (and phonetically far closer than many of Cassidy’s fake associations like block and bealach or sách úr and sucker) and none of them has any direct connection with Irish.